Guardian writer John Ezard dies aged 71

Reporter and writer – 'the kind of journalist who gives journalism a good name' – joined paper at 27, and never left

John Ezard, one of the Guardian's most respected writers and reporters over many years, has died at the age of 71.

Ezard, a tall, shambling figure who spent more than 40 years with the paper, specialised latterly in stories on literary and arts matters, but he also wrote with distinction on state occasions and, far from his normal beat, from the Falkland Islands, for whose people he developed a special affection and respect.

Educated in Essex and at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, he trained on the West Essex Gazette and then the Oxford Mail before joining the Guardian at the age of 27. He never left, turning down offers from other news organisations such as the BBC and Independent, and contributing to the paper long after his retirement.

Peter Preston, the paper's former editor, said: "Because he was never a natural desk man John's decades on the paper were mostly writing ones: he could do royal weddings with wit as well as awe. But his humanity was constant whatever the subject. He formed bonds across 8,000 miles with the Falklanders and kept them burnished. He was a master of all trades and the kind of journalist who gives journalism a good name: skilled, talented and always true to himself."

Ezard could be a formidable figure to more junior members of staff, but they soon discovered his gruff exterior masked an essentially kindly and helpful nature. His colleague Maev Kennedy said: "He was ferocious to everyone in principle, helplessly kindhearted to individuals, frequently lamenting the illiteracy and frivolity of young journalists in the office and then going out of his way to offer help, advice and contacts.

"He had a remarkable memory for literature and could quote reams not just of poetry but prose. He was a complete stickler for grammar and spelling – and precision in journalism – he couldn't bear sloppy writing. When he covered books awards he read all the shortlisted books from cover to cover – and the results often confirmed his dark suspicions that this was more than the judges managed."

That thoroughness was exemplified when he was asked to contribute an account of the life of Dame Barbara Cartland, the prolific and long-lived romantic novelist, for the Dictionary of National Biography and settled down to read all her 500 works before writing the piece – all for a fee of £70 and, as he wrote ruefully in the Guardian, a guarantee that his name would live for ever in the annals.


Stephen Bates

The GuardianTramp

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